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It’s time to stop the stupid war on vaping

Over at TheJournal.ie, they’re running one of their regular reader polls, just like Gript, and many other news websites do. Today, it’s on the subject of vaping, and whether so called “sweet flavoured” vaping juices should be banned.

Predictably, support for banning the stuff vastly outweighs support for letting people do what they want, 63% to 32% at the time of writing. Given the liberal bent of the publication, it’s very likely that a good number of “ban that stuff” voters in the Journal’s (non scientific) poll are people who nodded sagely along to arguments in favour of “choice” just 18 months ago.

The war on vaping is gaining pace, and it’s being pushed by a very strange alliance of liberal nanny-staters and, well, Donald Trump:

“The secretary for the United States Department of Health and Human Services said that the Trump administration is readying a ban on flavoured e-cigarettes.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is currently finalising its guidelines to remove all non-tobacco flavors of e-cigarettes, including mint and menthol, from the American market within the next 30 days.

E-cigarette companies might be able to reintroduce their flavors at a later date, provided they submit a formal application and subsequently receive approval from the FDA.”

Let’s have a look, shall we, at the damage that vaping does to a person. Here is a video on the subject prepared by Britain’s National Health Service, not a notably biased group. It’s very easy to understand:

3million people in the UK alone are now vaping. It is a reasonable assumption that the overwhelming majority of those people are former smokers, who are now vaping instead, and doing vastly less harm to themselves if not.

And what of those vapers who are not ex-smokers? This, of course, is the big concern.

The argument is that young people are being attracted into vaping because of bubblegum type flavours that are much nicer than the taste of cigarettes and are therefore taking up a harmful habit.

That may well be true, but it fails to consider some fairly obvious points:

First, the overall decline in the number of smokers since vaping exploded as an alternative cannot simply be put down to current smokers giving up the cigarettes in favour of e-cigarettes. Some of that number must be young people who have taken up vaping who otherwise might have started smoking.

No policy of any Government has been able to eradicate smoking altogether. No matter how hard we try to portray it as a disgusting, deadly habit, people start doing it anyway:

“The Healthy Ireland Survey found that about 22% of Irish adults are smokers, 18% smoke on a daily basis with 4% smoking occasionally.

This translates to about 830,000 smokers in Ireland, fewer than the number of quitters.

Of those who do smoke, the rate of smoking is highest in the 25-34 age group and is lowest (9%) in the over 75 age group.”

There is, what’s more, simply no evidence to support the alternative notion which is that vaping makes smoking more attractive. In fact, all the evidence flows in the opposite direction:

Growth in the use of e-cigarettes has not led to more young people taking up tobacco smoking, new research suggests.

The latest in a string of studies on a subject that continues to divide opinion found perceptions against tobacco smoking have hardened in recent years, although it does not establish why.

The results of ‘Have e-cigarettes re-normalised or displaced youth smoking?’ were published in Tobacco Control by the British Medical Journal (BMJ).

Researchers analysed national UK survey responses from school children between the ages of 13 and 15 since 1998. In particular, they looked at the period between 2011 and 2015 when e-cigarette use proliferated.

Our results provide little evidence that renormalisation of smoking occurred during this period,” researchers said.

“What is more, positive perceptions of smoking attitudes declined at a faster rate following the proliferation of e-cigarettes, suggesting that attitudes towards smoking hardened while e-cigarettes were emerging rather than softening, as would be expected were smoking becoming re-normalised.”

What we know about vaping can, in fact, be summarised in a couple of bullet points:

  • It carries some risks, but vastly fewer risks than smoking
  • Many former smokers are now vapers
  • There is no evidence at all that vaping is making smoking more popular

Isn’t it one of the great paradoxes of our time that after 30 years of desperately trying to find a way to get people to stop smoking, the moment we actually find one, we’re desperate to ban it?

Why are we trying to ban vaping, by the way, but keeping smoking actual cigarettes legal? If our concern is that the taste is attractive, where is the legislation demanding that horrible tastes be inserted into, you know, actual cigarettes? It’s perfectly possible to do just that, using chemicals no more harmful than the stuff in the cigarettes already. We don’t seem to care that some people find the taste of cigarette smoke nice – why is that?

Is it possible – just possible – that the main drivers of anti-vaping legislation are, in fact, the big tobacco companies themselves? They’re faced with a competitor that is stealing their customers at an alarming rate. Trying to stop people from vaping, if successful, will certainly result in at least a percentage of those people going back to their Marlboros. And it will limit the number of current smokers who decide to give vaping a try.

The public, as ever, is being played here. Vaping is a godsend to many people who would otherwise assuredly die young.

Leave it alone.

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